loaded

I’ve been listening to the Velvet Underground a lot in the past few days. I think it kind of started on my final day living in Dublin last week, my things all packed up and me floating around the house not really sure what to do before leaving for the airport – so I put on ‘Sunday Morning’, and it seemed kind of appropriate somehow; all light, pretty and surreal. The Velvet Underground and Nico is probably still my favourite VU album, not least because it’s the first one I ever listened to – it has that sense of familiarity and nostalgia about it, and that inherent weirdness, extraordinary diversity and sheer ingenuity, all of which I love. But, since then, this week I’ve been listening to the 1985 outtakes compilation, VU, quite a bit because it was only introduced to me recently (and it has some incredible stuff on it – ‘Temptation Inside Your Heart’ is an absolute delight with the ridiculously irreverent/incredible Cale/Reed chats over the top).

But also I’ve been playing their last record (Squeeze doesn’t count) 1970’s Loaded a lot too, and so when I saw they had just announced a 45th anniversary re-issue of the LP I felt I might as well write a pointless essay about why I think Loaded is so great.

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[Originally published on GoldenPlec]

All good things must come to an end. Earlier this week famed Dublin club the Twisted Pepper announced that it would be closing its doors as a music venue for good. Ahead of the final few days of Abbey Street fun this weekend, it seemed fitting to write a eulogy of sorts.

It was hardly a space without its problems, but for all the sweaty walls and sometimes sketchy sound (in the earlier days), there’s still no doubt that with Twisted Pepper the people of Bodytonic provided something unique for Ireland’s capital over these past seven years.

We reached out to some of the artists, promoters and patrons to whom the Pepper became something of a second home, reminiscing on their times in the venue that veritably became a part of Dublin’s music history.

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Photo: Brian Barron

[Originally published on GoldenPlec]

“Things got a little out of hand there.”

Bilal is seemingly the master of understatement, because throwing your mic stand off the Sugar Club’s tiny stage before jumping down to join it on the ground, rolling around and screaming for the best part of two minutes? That is more than a “little out of hand” – in the best possible way.

Indeed, for all the soulful crooning and R&B-style sensibilities, it quickly becomes apparent from his vivacity and presence that the Philadelphia-born polymath is perhaps best described as a rock star. His band take to the stage first (after a superb support slot from the always impressive Loah), and dive right in to a hefty jam that immediately renders the room captivated. The band boasts absolutely spectacular percussion and strange, squelchy keys that underpin some surprisingly heavy guitars, and gorgeously pure backing vocals.

But it is Bilal himself who brings that je ne sais quoi to the show. It’s something in the way he wears sunglasses when he takes to the stage in a way that should be pretentious but, on him, it sincerely seems cool and self-assured. There’s something in his sheer sensual eccentricity too, as he manically writhes and moans into the microphone. His performance is as weird as it is sultry, and it’s all the more appealing for it.

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If you’ve seen Dublin five-piece Meltybrains? live in and around the past year, you might have found yourselves encouraged into joining a little dance routine during one particularly upbeat, sunshine-tinged song (sometimes, naturally, resulting in a conga line). That song is ‘The Vine’, and it’s finally been recorded (boasting production from none other than the formidable Kwes) and constitutes as entirely necessary listening to get your weekend off to a good start.

Get ready for lush, colourful melodies that spring to life and bring to mind magical beaches full of soaring tropical birds (or, if not birds, maybe five Irish guys trying to be a boyband). There are superbly lithe undercurrents of Afrobeat-esque rhythms too, that evoke that uplifting aura of something a little bit otherworldly. Altogether it’s sugary sweet and glorious – think endless cans of Lilt on a sunny day (without that being sickening) – and while it nods to Dancehall it retains a certain eccentricity that is inherently a Melty trait. Nialler9 posited that the track “could feature on a Disney soundtrack” and that’s kind of spot on – ‘The Vine’ is a song that seems to revel in its cartoony, uninhibited euphoria, and that’s what makes it so wonderfully moreish.

In the band’s words:

The Vine is a song about our old music lecturer, Paddy Devine, who taught us harmony and counterpoint back when we were in college. Paddy was the nicest lecturer we ever had, he was big into his rudiments and was very strict, but he was the most down to earth person you could ever meet. We were his very last class before he retired and he often took us out to drink wine with him.

We’ll always remember him in a good light, hence the lyrics:
‘It’s glad to define the fine line and rudiments, and the forgotten necessity of the vine.’

Although the lyrics are about him, the musical aspects of the song go against most of what he taught.”

It’s officially out on August 1, and there will doubtless be an equally fantastical video accompaniment but, for now, enjoy:

Photograph by Eve North.

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An unnecessarily lengthy non-Longitude anecdote to begin: it was at an Isle of Wight Festival a few years back when Devendra Banhart was playing in a tent and, knowing I was a fan, my mum and aunt decided to go watch him (assuming I would be there). They accidentally set up deck chairs in the VIP area and noticed people around them were taking photos of their co-VIP friends, so they decided to do the same, clueless about who they were. When they showed me the photos, it transpired they’d been sitting with two members of The Strokes. While my family members were essentially living my dream, I was sitting in a campsite trying to coerce my fellow teenage friends to leave so we could actually see some music. They eventually agreed, and I was afforded the opportunity to watch N-Dubz (no, really).

I eventually realised that I was better off abandoning my peers if I actually wanted to see the acts I was interested in, but the point is that, for a lot of young people, festivals aren’t so much about music. Which is fine at a camping festival – strange lands of tents, hidden raves, glitter, ponchos, pints, endless dancing and a mixture of chippers and pan-Asian food stands. The artists performing are part and parcel of the experience, of course, but a camping festival goes beyond just being a gig – sound at outdoor stages is often pretty terrible anyway, so instead it’s the atmosphere at the gigs which makes it special. But at festivals like Longitude – three non-camping days that ended around 10.45pm – there’s not quite the same otherworldly vibe, and the number of people not there to actually see acts perform was somewhat surprising. This, in turn, impacted said festival “atmosphere” for some of the acts, particularly on the Friday.

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[Originally published on GoldenPlec

It might seem irreverent to posit Manu Chao’s satiny yellow shirt as a definitive characteristic of his Dublin performance; and yet it just about works. It captures the euphoric, brash and delightfully incongruous mood that pervaded miserably rainy Kilmainham.

The Paris-born polymath of genres brought a welcome slice of sunshiney vibes with his La Ventura show, and the gig ended up a veritable dance party under the gloomy grey sky. With a semi-mosh pit of people skanking with reckless abandon and Pride flags waving in the front row, this was the wonderful kind of gig where seemingly everyone had a smile on their face.

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